Washington Monument reopening delayed by possible soil contamination

The reopening of the Washington Monument will be delayed due to potentially contaminated soil discovered at the site of a new security screening area, the National Park Service announced on Monday.

The project will be slowed by mitigation of the contamination, according to officials, who added that the monument is now expected to reopen in August.

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“The potentially contaminated soil is below the ground surface and poses no risk to public health. The soil in question was likely introduced in the 1880s as the monument was being completed,” the National Park Service said in a statement.

"Due to the necessary mitigation efforts, the reopening of the Washington Monument is now expected to take place in August," it added.

Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the park service, did not identify the substance but said the agency decided to forgo expensive and time-consuming testing because the area aligns with similar contamination patterns already mapped out by the city.

Litterst said construction workers will move directly to mitigation, which involves adding an additional metal barrier between the soil and the geothermal wells that will heat the new building.

The Washington Monument has been closed since August 2016 to build the new security screening area and modernize the elevator to the top of the 555-foot structure. Officials said work on the elevator is "substantially complete."

The monument was originally set to reopen this spring.

Updated at 1:01 p.m.